Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Because He Loves: the Greater Plans of God


They had been stable immediately prior that moment. They were planted into the dirt-callused rock, and they felt normal; natural. But then I began to tremble and my body began to sway, and the toes that once felt so safe and carefree were now hanging off the edge of that now slippery rock. They were shaking. And as one side felt weighted down, the other side began to lift, lift, lift, until the stable side was all that was holding me down. When my wavering toes finally grabbed hold of the rock's thin edge, my once firm foundation felt as if it were rocking, and my previously stable side began to waver back and forth, back and forth. 
Though  I exceedingly grew in fear the cliff, in retrospect I somehow knew in that moment that I would not fall off the edge that was so frangibly holding me up. 
My vertigo is a lot like my toes being on the edge of that seemingly faltered cliff. The unsteadiness throws me off-guard multiple times a week - sometimes even multiple times a day. And while it's oftentimes frustrating and embarrassing to stumble and trip over myself in front of strangers and friends alike, I know that vertigo is part of me for a reason. 
When I first saw the signs of it, I was scared to death. I didn't know why I felt so light-headed and weak so frequently, and I often shrank at the thought of doing extracurricular and social activities. Class was done; I was going home. A friend invited me to hang out; I was hesitant. I was so afraid that once I got to where I wanted to go, I would be so off-balanced that I'd be too afraid to drive home. I had never known until that season that I could feel vulnerable to fainting and dizziness in such a frightening way. Could I do anything alone? Would I constantly need to have people in my presence, even when I got in my car to drive to the store a mere two minutes away? 
My anxiety grew, my patience stretched, and sadness grew in my heart. Feeling like you're about to fall over doesn't seem like a big deal until it makes persistent residency in your life. Through hours of chiropractor treatment weekly, shortness of breath from fear, and stomach pains that were prayed over often, the light at the end of the tunnel was but a speckle of dust miles and miles away. 
I remember asking God for patience and humility that year. I also remember worrying about those requests soon after making them. I knew it was worth it though, and I did not regret the prayers He received from me at that time. Now as I look back, I realize this was God's way of responding to my sincere desire for these fruits to be produced more deeply and radically in my life. 
Thankfully, I grew tired of complaining about my vertigo; it seemed quite irrational to complain about something through which God was blessing. If the matter now comes to surface, it's usually because I'm laughing at myself when I'm about to fall and my friend sees me, or when I lose my balance and my boyfriend holds my arm to keep me steady. God has taught me to find joy in this challenge of mine, but more than that, He has shown me the necessity in being patient with myself. Even more so, however, is the development of humility He has instilled in me through it all. 
My professor Jon Rittenhouse once said, "God allows experiences to come about in order to soften out hearts and transform our characters." I agree. There is never a cliff in our lives that God cannot use. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

jelly beans

Life is a mystery and I'm caught in the middle of it. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's scary and sometimes it makes me think about jelly beans.
Yes, I said it. Jelly beans.

Just think about it momentarily. You are the pink and brown-spotted jelly bean in the fifteenth layer of a bowl filled with hundreds of jelly beans. In the instance that jelly beans had eyes, you'd be going crazy! Above, beside, below, and on top of you are a bunch of crazy-colored jelly beans, literally smothering you from every angle. In the instance that jelly beans had legs, you'd be running for dear life! But when you ran, you just fell down next to a whole new assortment of jelly beans. They're everywhere.

Such is life. From every angle of your life there are new things occurring, new decisions to be made, and new demands you must attend to on a daily basis. One minute you might be doing laundry, and the next minute you're so hungry that you can't possibly fold another towel until you re-fuel. Or one day you may be the involuntarily but nonetheless delegated chauffeur in your household, and the next you may be getting taxied to the nearest hospital to have your first child. Life is indeed a wonderful variety of the new, and a calming reminder of the familiar.
Just like jelly beans.
So dive on in. Don't feel smothered and don't try to run. Because live is a wonder and indeed lots of fun.

Wings Like Eagles

I realized today that this season that has begun feels new and refreshing, but somehow familiar and wonderful at the same time. Exhilarating may be the word I'm looking for here. I feel like I've been in this place before - the same taste of freedom, the same sense of joy. But at the same time, it feels refreshingly new - like jumping in a big pool of brisk water on a scorching hot day.

It was today that I realized how free I feel. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I feel as if two bags of bricks, one on each side, has been lifted off my shoulders. I knew in my head I had been freed, but it wasn't until today that I truly felt the burdens of my past being lifted, thankfully leaving from me before I had time to take one last glance.

I feel new, and I love it; I really, really love it. I tried all day to find a word to describe what I feel like. I was preparing jello, and thought I could somehow relate to it; I thought of a lollipop, but that didn't suffice either; then I thought of a bird, and I remembered one of my favorite passages in Scripture.

Isaiah 40: 28-31 says,  "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (NIV).

God has renewed my strength, and I am soaring on the wings of His love and grace. His mercies are truly new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Thank you for the freedom and joy only You can provide, Father.

Though the above segment was written a few months ago, I still feel that same renewed freedom today. I have likened its familiarity to the bliss of childhood, and its newness to the joy of God's presence. He has brought me out of so much, and I have no way to ever repay Him in full. I am forever grateful for the daily freedom, refreshment, and exhilaration which He so perfectly provides.
    
    

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Art of Relaxation


Recently God has been presenting many opportunities for me to relax. And it's during those times that I tend to try to ignore His tug and go on with my busy schedule. I like my busy schedule. It keeps me, well, busy. It permits me to converse with people, have fun at my job, go on adventures, laugh, and exercise. It keeps me focused, goal-oriented, and prepared for the next surprise add-on to my planner notes. It excites me. It makes me feel needed, valuable, and strengthened in my capacity to love others. But it also allows me to not have to think deeply about things going on underneath the surface, or things I've been through, things going on now, or things I long for. Before long, being busy can create a blockage between the outward and the inward, and one's natural response to a compassionate, "how are you?" becomes the natural instinct, here's-what-I'm-supposed-to-say, response: "I'm good! And you?" Being busy produces surface level, "all is well", and quite frankly, boring, people.

Last semester, I found myself becoming boring. With classes, and schoolwork, and my job,  I made no time for relationships with actual people. I over-focused on things in life because I feared interacting with the people in my life. I, in a sense, shut down. I crashed like a computer crashes after months of giving off the signs of a frail and deteriorating engine. After choosing to let go of the one I made out to be my superhero, I subconsciously replaced him with other superhero-like "things" to quench the saddened thirst. Soon I grew tired and weak, and my fear of personal interactions became an invisible electric fence between myself and others. I let myself grow numb to what I love: interacting with people more than school books, and God more than head knowledge. 

By His grace alone, God revealed to me what I was doing, and the fear which I was allowing to rule over my entire being, rather than Him alone. When I was little, I feared death; now I fear living wrong. And that fear of making huge life choices that could potentially mess everything up had caused me to shrink back at the sight of those choices; the only way to avoid them seemed to be to avoid people. But avoiding the big stuff was not worth the combination of busyness and loneliness it produced. Leaving that season in the dust has left me with a renewed sense of joy. 

I knew a new season had begun a couple of months ago, but it wasn't until today that I fully recognized the release my heart had from the strongholds that were taking over my life. Today was the first day I noticed this because I realized that even though God is presenting opportunities for me to relax, I am not ignoring Him. I'm actually enjoying a break from my busy-bee lifestyle, and taking in what each day holds. God has freed me from the things that I used to fear would creep up to the surface if I took a moment's breath, and my heart is open for whatever God desires to teach me in this new season of life. I am so thankful to God for the opportunities He has been giving me, the friendships being formed, and the joy that He has brought to my heart in the simplest of life's surprises. I pray that though the semester ahead has thus far presented itself as non-stop, my heart would not shut down and God's glory would remain my focus in all I do. 

Written on 8/18/12

Saturday, August 18, 2012

hand in hand


"Who loves Jesus?" I would ask throughout each day. "I do!" I heard back. "Who trusts Jesus?" I proceeded. "I do!" they replied.
I repeated these questions throughout the days at Alpine with the 4th and 5th grade girls from church. I wanted to help them understand that in any and every situation, we need to be loving God and trusting Him with all we have. From bee stings to being teased, we all have our fears. But no matter how small or large our fears are, God remains God, and He cares about it all. 
After returning home from camp, I kept recalling those times when I asked the girls those two questions, and the many conversations we had about how to live for Him in all we do, trust Him in every circumstance, and show His love to others always. To this day I have been repeating in my head, "Do you love God? Do you trust God?" like a melody that floats in your heart and  mind until it eventually fades over time. But I do not want this convicting melody to drift away, for it has  been a reminder that just as I taught the girls at camp to love and trust God always, I ought not be deemed a hypocrite and lack that love and trust for Him myself. 
I'm currently reading a book titled "Gods and Kings" by Lynn Austin. It's the first book in a series centered on the books of First and Second Kings, but it's in the form of a novel. I literally cannot put it down; I love it. After reading some this morning, it left me thinking about how young children cry out to God and pray to Him whole-heartedly even though they do not understand the depths of who God is and how we ought to live because of what He has done for us. But their childlike faith proves itself to be substantially large compared to many. It has reminded me of the fact that I will not know everything about God in this life, nor do I need to in order to worship and cry out to Him. My lack of understanding shows my need for a Savior. He does not require that I learn everything there is to know about Him, nor does He make that a prerequisite for loving, trusting, and living for Him.
It is indeed a choice. A choice to stand tall and mighty, acting like you've got it all together, or a choice to humble yourself and choose to follow God whether or not your life or the world around you makes sense. Part of following God is trusting that because of His unconditional love for us, He will bring all things to completion, reveal things to you as need be, and take you through seasons in life according to His perfect will and timing. He is holding the hands of His children; it's time our grasp for His grows stronger. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

gratitude

You fight for us even when we choose to ignore You; You defend us always, though we do not always stand up for You; You love us unconditionally, even when we do not wish to love you back. You hold onto us with everything you have, though we may pull away from you when our hearts grow complacent. When all others flee from my presence, You stay with me; You hold my hand through it all, and show me Your love in ways that I can grasp. I depend on You whether or not man remains reliable to me. I am thankful that though I am imperfect, by Your grace I am able to worship You, fully perfect and fully God. Thank God I am able to lean on You instead of my own, faulty self. You alone can sustain me; You alone will carry me through the challenges ahead.

You have brought strength from my weaknesses, blessings from my sorrows, and have humbled me immensely - for I know I am nothing without you, oh Lord.


"Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet"

Jesus, Friend of Sinners - Casting Crowns

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Depth of Love



How deep the Father's love for us...
If only I could grasp it fully; then I may be able to love better, love stronger, and love deeper.

Your love shows its face as the morning rises, O God, and still at dusk Your love remains. Oh how I long to see it there, standing in the peek of the day.

It is there; more present and more real than the madness surrounding, vaster than the sea below, more striking than the beauty of sight. Man cannot know the fullness of God, nor the thoughts that preside within. But man can grow. Grow up; grow wide; grow deep. God does not grow in love because His love never alters; it is more real and more perfect than any other love abounding. Nevertheless, by God's grace and mercy alone, man's love has the capacity to grow. And each time love in its purist sense proceeds to grow, it likens to that of the love of God. Each time our love takes on new bounds, our recognition and wonder of the love of God becomes fuller and richer and greater and deeper.

How deep the Father's love for us, that He sent His very own Son to shed His blood on our behalf. How deep the Father's love for us, that He gifts us with the ability to love. Our love for God, and our love for others, provide glimpses of the greatness of His perfect love for all.

Without God, there is no love. Without love, there is no life.
Praise God for who He is, how He loves, and the life he gives freely to all who choose to receive.